Author: Devin Brown
Title: Inside Prince Caspian: A Guide to Exploring the Return to Narnia
Publisher: Baker Books
When the first installment of C.S. Lewis’ beloved Chronicles of Narnia hit movie theaters in 2005, audiences came out in droves. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe grossed more than $740 million worldwide and was a huge success among people of every ilk. Lewis scholars, whose writing had hitherto been relegated to library shelves, were suddenly in high demand. Devin Brown was one of them.
A professor of English at Asbury College, Brown, who obtained his doctorate from the University of South Carolina, published a commentary called Inside Narnia, which was timed to coincide with the film’s release. Now, in time for the May ’08 opening of Disney’s Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia, comes Brown’s follow-up commentary, Inside Prince Caspian: A Guide to Exploring the Return to Narnia.
To say that Inside Prince Caspian is thorough would be an understatement. Like its predecessor—but unlike other commentaries on these novels—Brown offers a chapter-by-chapter analysis of Lewis’ work. He has also geared each of his chapters to correspond with those of Lewis, which significantly facilitates study. He provides interesting historical information, such as connections to other works that influenced Lewis (like those written by his friend and fellow “Inkling,” J.R. Tolkien) as well as remarks and opinions from other Lewis scholars, all of which are sprinkled throughout the commentary.
Brown sets the stage with an informative introduction. He critiques the first film, sharing his thoughts on where director Andrew Adamson lived up to the book and where he fell short. He describes the story behind the creation of Prince Caspian, including the original titles that Lewis wanted (which were both vetoed by his publisher). He also provides a helpful discussion about the order in which the books should be read (which is not the order in which they now appear). He then moves on to a chapter-by-chapter discussion.
In chapter one, Brown explores the book’s opening line, comparing it to several of Lewis’ other openings. He examines how Lewis chose to convey the passage of time; the significance of the children’s newfound maturity; why the children never leave from their home to travel to Narnia—or travel the same path twice; why Lewis chose to make Narnia familiar territory this time around; and finally, the contrasting element of confusion that the children experience. He even analyzes what and how much the children eat—and why.
Successive chapters undertake similar detailed teaching. Chapter titles include: The Island; The Ancient Treasure House; The Dwarf; Caspian’s Adventure in the Mountains; The People that Lived in Hiding; Old Narnia in Danger; What Lucy Saw; The Return of the Lion; Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance; and Asland Makes a Door in the Air.
Overall, Brown’s commentary is well written, smart and insightful, and it’s sure to thrill Lewis devotees. This is no Cliff Notes interpretation, however. Brown’s writing is literary, not devotional, and it’s geared toward the serious reader—either those who have an academic bent or, at the very least, a serious commitment to studying Lewis’ works. In some instances, it actually reads more like a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis than a chapter-by-chapter one.
As Brown himself states, this is not intended to replace Lewis’ book. Those who haven’t read Prince Caspian will likely feel overwhelmed by the amount of information this professor provides. If nothing else, they are bound to be disappointed by the many ‘spoilers.’
Of course, viewing the forthcoming movie might be enough to allow Brown’s readers to follow his teaching, without reading the book. Then again, four months is plenty of time to read both—an effort that is sure to deepen everyone’s appreciation of this important literary oeuvre as well as the cinematic version to come.